The Tigers, who are taking their mandatory day off from practice and meetings on Mondays this fall, have just two more practice days to prepare for their opener as they put the finishing touches on installing new offensive and defensive systems. On Tuesday they worked out in full pads.
Malzahn and the totally rebuilt coaching staff have the task of turning around a team that was unable to win an SEC game last season.
Jonathon Mincy, who is expected to start at cornerback vs. the Cougars, said the Tigers are glad to "finally have the game week here" after having to go through an offseason following a 3-9 season.
The junior said a victory over Washington State would be a "big confidence booster" for the Tigers and the team's new defensive coordinator, Ellis Johnson, agrees.
Johnson said he isn't sure how his guys will perform on Saturday night in their first outing using his 4-2-5 alignment, but noted he is certain they need good things to happen after going through a horrible 2012 season in which the Tigers finished 13th of 14 SEC teams in total defense.
"The biggest thing for us right now is that these kids have not been successful," Johnson said. "You have got to change that. The sooner we are successful together the easier the transition is going to be."
The 2012 Tigers surrendered 197.6 yards per contest allowing opponents to average 4.9 yards per carry. The Tigers allowed opponents to average 222.9 yards per game through the air. Opposing quarterbacks completed 66.5 percent of their passes and finished the season with 20 touchdown passes and just two interceptions.
"It is just human nature that until we have success together there is always going to be that little lack of trust or lack of buying in--that is human nature," Johnson said. "The earlier we have success that obviously will enhance everything."
Mincy and the rest of the secondary are expected to be busy on opening night vs. an opponent that threw the ball on 71 percent of its plays in 2012 under the direction of Coach Mike Leach.
Last season neither Mincy nor any of the other cornerbacks managed to intercept a pass. He pointed out that under the direction of Johnson and the team's new defensive back coaches, Melvin Smith and Charlie Harbison, forcing turnovers has been a major focus in practice dating back to spring drills.
Noting that his personal goal for the opener is to come up with one or two interceptions, Mincy said the defense will head into Saturday night's game with "a new sense of urgency" to perform at a higher level this year.
"Everybody is confident with each other," he said. "We know we have been training and we can look over to the next guy beside us and we know this person is ready to go to war for us. That is something you look for as a team--just that chemistry and bond you have with each other."
A major issue with the defense last season was missed tackles. Mincy predicts there will be fewer of those in 2013. "That is something we are going to correct as a defense," he said.
Perhaps the biggest question for Malzahn's first Auburn team on Saturday night is how juco transfer Nick Marshall will respond as the starting quarterback.
Mincy, who has been working against the junior in practice all month, noted that the 6-1, 210 QB has a strong and accurate arm.
"I feel he makes great decisions," Mincy said. "If he doesn't see anything open he doesn't force any passes. He will turn it over to his legs and that is something you like in your quarterback who is always going to make positive decisions. We feel good with him."
"If he is to one side of the hash he can throw the ball all around the field," Mincy said. "That is something that you look for in your quarterback. You feel very confident as a team just knowing your quarterback can make big-time throws and also make big decisions in the game. That is something we are looking forward to seeing from him this season."
In other news and notes:
*Kickoff for the game vs. Washington State is set for 6 p.m. CDT on Saturday for a matchup that will be televised on ESPNU. Tickets are still available and are expected to still be available for fans who want to purchase them at Jordan-Hare Stadium on Saturday.
*The contest will be just the 11th for the Tigers vs. a team from the PAC-12 and the first in the regular season since the Tigers defeated Washington State 40-14 at Jordan-Hare Stadium to open the 2006 season in the only previous meeting between the two colleges in football.
*Both Auburn and Washington State have experienced teams. The Cougars return nine offensive starters and nine defensive starters from the 2012 team that won three games. Auburn has 32 players on its roster who have at least one AU start. Malzahn has yet to announce who his starters or top backups will be, something AU coaches normally due by their game week press conference prior to the opener.
*Auburn's all-time record is 7-3 vs. PAC-12 opposition with the last win coming vs. Oregon in the 2010 season BCS Championship Game.
More Notes And Discussion: